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Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey

Categories: Historic Sites, Tourist Spots
Inspirock Rating:
4.5/5 based on 240+ reviews on the web
There’s plenty to see and do as you explore the secret island at the Royal Gunpowder Mills with a variety of exciting and informative exhibitions.

Set in 170 acres of natural parkland, there are more than 20 buildings of major historic value. It was known as ‘the island’ due to the network of canals which were developed to transport gunpowder to and from the site.

Step through the gates to discover this ‘secret island’ full of fascinating history and exciting science for a surprising family day out.

Award Winning Film & Exhibition

Travel back through time as this extraordinary film, complete with amazing special effects, takes you on a journey from the discovery of gunpowder to the race into space. Find out how gunpowder and explosives have literally shaped the world – both for good and ill over the centuries.

Discover the hidden truth about this top secret facility which has played a major part in the defence of the realm through the ages. Through a series of interactive displays, find out how gunpowder came to Britain, what life was like between the decks of a warship, how the famous bouncing bomb was developed and the vital role the Gunpowder Mills played in both World Wars.

The Armoury is an impressively comprehensive collection of small arms and militaria, displaying over 200 historic firearms covering the periods from the English Civil War to present day conflicts. Visitors are encouraged to handle and inspect a variety of historic weapons.

Among the new features that visitors will be able to enjoy is the ‘Rocket Vault’ where you will be able to see some of the secret rockets worked on at Waltham Abbey.

Professor Nitrate’s Mad-Lab is a fun-packed series of hands on experiments and activities set within the laboratory of eccentric rocket scientist. The Professor is always on the look-out for willing volunteers to test his latest theories so visitors will need to be prepared for fun-filled and, occasionally, smoke-filled adventures!

Two exciting new temporary exhibitions will showcase the awesome power of the natural world:

‘Feel the Force’ (May Half Term) uses a series of large-scale, interactive exhibits to graphically demonstrate the forces of nature; from smoke rings and bubbles, to the way water flows.

Sparks will fly in ‘Shocking Electricity’ (Summer Holidays), a new exhibition of weird and wonderful experiments for all ages. Make an explosion using just water, experiment with batteries and generators, magnets and plasma globes, and see if you dare touch the electric fence.

‘Women at War’ is a fascinating photographic display highlighting the vital and varied role women have played during wartime. The exhibition perfectly captures the unfolding social history as women took a significant step towards equality.

‘Dangerous Days’ brings together surviving artefacts, explosives-making equipment, pictures and sound recordings which reveal fascinating details about the dangers and heroisms of the people who worked at, and lived near, the ‘Royal Gunpowder Factory’ during the Second World War.

The 1940s Exhibition is an authentic recreation of the sights and sounds of an air raid; visitors can step inside an Anderson Shelter and even peek into a wartime kitchen and back yard. You can also browse in a 1940s general store and post office and see a 1940s toy shop.

For nature lovers, the Wildlife Tower is perfectly positioned on the edge of the woodland, offering visitors a great vantage point with panoramic views to spot the resident wildlife. Get up-to-date information, photos and facts about the wildlife living on the site.

Then take a stroll down the Nature Walk to explore a large section of the thriving woodland from a network of boardwalks, bridges and footpaths.

The Military Truck or Land Train Tours are always popular, offering the chance to see areas of the site which are normally restricted. The area is home to plenty of wildlife and the remains of a number of buildings which were vital to the production of gunpowder on the site.

The tours last about 40 minutes and are accompanied by one of the site’s experienced guides. (There is a small extra charge for land train tours.)

Please see

or call 01992 707370 for more information.
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  • Took kids aged 9,7 & 5 and they loved it especially Prof Nitrate. Built and fired rockets. Put on night vision goggles to find hidden bombs. Fired water rockets. Good activity and fun too. 
  • The Royal Gunpowder Mills have been on my 'to do' list for a while. I had the privilege of a quick tour as part of a corporate event on a day when it was normally closed. It is a huge site of 170 acre...  read more »
  • We've visited the Gunpowder mills in the past but havn't been in a few years so decided to spend a day there with the kids and some friends. There weren't many people there on the day we went and it w...  read more »
  • Great day out for the family. Our son had great fun building a rocket. Launching it. Could be better sign posted around the grounds is the only small thing that needs improving
  • A great day out!!! Staff very cheerful and polite. A lot bigger than we expected. Plenty of activities for the kids. Both the kids and the adults loved it!
  • Outstandingly beautiful. Wildlife, history, lots of things to do and learn. 300 years of history from gunpowder to modern rockets. The Mad labs science demonstrations or rocketry and explosives are brilliant fun for all ages and included in the entry price. For a small amount extra there are also mini train, land train and military vehicle rides. The cafe has plenty of seating and serves good food, though you are also only a 2 minute drive from McDonalds. Its a great outing for the whole family from great grandparents to toddlers. Do check the opening times online before you set out and check the calendar as there are also special and seasonal event days including Spitfire flyovers, fireworks and more.
  • Good fun especially if they have an event on. Good could be better so take your own
  • My boys wanted to go there, we all loved it , very very interesting,especially the gun collection,The mills are set in really lovely grounds with amazing wildlife. a well kept secret museum.
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